Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 7th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Astronauts begin spacewalks for work on battery upgrades. NASA calls for input on Moon spacesuits and plans to source them commercially in the future. China launches HD observation satellite.

Human Space Exploration

Astronauts complete extra work on first in series of battery upgrade spacewalks (10/6): NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Drew Morgan teamed Sunday for a productive 7 hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) that initiated efforts to upgrade the power storage batteries distributed across the orbiting science laboratory’s long solar power truss. In all, four more spacewalk are planned before the end of October to complete the exchange on the far port side of the truss. The fourth spacewalk, on October 21, is to become the first ever spacewalk by two woman. The effort to replace 48 nickel hydrogen batteries with 24 more efficient lithium ion units began with rounds 1 and 2 in January 2017 and March 2019. A final round is planned for the spring of 2020.

NASA calls for input on Moon spacesuits and plans to source them commercially in future
Tech Crunch (10/4): While NASA is developing its next generation of space suits for the early Artemis missions that are to test the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion on uncrewed and crewed cislunar missions and carry out an accelerated return to the lunar surface with astronauts in 2024, the agency is also soliciting input from the commercial sector for space suit design features. NASA is also looking to commercial suppliers for the garments and spacewalk tools as the Moon exploration program matures.

NASA expects to buy more Soyuz seats for astronauts in 2020, at $85 million a pop
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (10/4): With some uncertainty looming over schedules and outcomes for the remaining test activities to certify Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon for the transport of astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), NASA is looking to extend its agreement with Russia for the purchase of Soyuz launches. The current agreement ends with a March 2020 Soyuz mission. As September came to a close, SpaceX’s Elon Musk predicted the Crew Dragon could be ready in three to four months despite some lingering safety concerns. Soyuz seats are $85 million.

Space Science

Intuitive Machines secures launch contract, wins lawsuit
Coalition Members in the News – Astrobotic, United Launch Alliance (10/3): Intuitive Machines, which is one of nine companies NASA intends to contract with to land payloads on the Moon under the Commercial Lunar Payloads Services initiative, has selected SpaceX’s Falcon 9 as the launch vehicle for its Nova-C mission in 2021. The contract announcement followed a U.S. District Court verdict on October 1 regarding a dispute between Intuitive Machines and Moon Express. Intuitive Machines was awarded $4.1 million in cash and equity in Moon Express, also one of the nine CLPS providers.

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover tests descent-stage separation
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (10/4): Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have tested the separation mechanism for the Mars 2020 rover and its descent stage. The rover is scheduled to launch to Mars in July 2020 and reach the Red Planet in February 2021, where it will study the Jezero Crater region for evidence of past habitable environments and collect soil and rock samples for eventual return to Earth.

NASA’s scheme to resurrect the drill on its Mars probe
Mashable (10/5): NASA’s Mars InSight lander descended onto the surface of the Red Planet in late November to conduct the first ever studies of the Martian interior with a seismometer and other instruments. Those include a probe that was to pound itself 16 feet below the surface to assess heat flows. Efforts to pound stopped at a depth of 14 inches in February as the probe became stuck. An engineering effort led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), has come up with a new strategy to resume digging.

Other News

Maxar selects Deployable Space Systems to build solar arrays for Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element (10/3): Maxar Technologies, NASA’s selection to provide the Power and Propulsion Element for the lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway, has chosen Deployable Space System to manufacture the Roll Out Solar Arrays for what is to be the Gateway’s first element.

60 years of space junk: The challenge of orbital debris
The Hill (10/4): The Space Age turned 62 last Friday, the anniversary of the 1957 launch of Sputnik by the former Soviet Union. The anniversary is accompanied by mounting concerns over the accumulation of orbital space debris as the White House stands up a new Space Force and the commercial space economy shows signs of encouraging growth. “At some point, space could become so cluttered by a cascade of increasing collisions that we can no longer access orbit safely,” writes Alexander William Salter, a Texas Tech University assistant professor of economics, in an op ed. There are at least 300,000 pieces of debris large enough to destroy a satellite upon impact, he notes.

Russia, Japan discuss cooperation in space industry
TASS of Russia (10/5): Representatives from Russia and Japan discussed possible future cooperation in space at the Science and Technology in Society forum in Kyoto, according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Akimov on Sunday. Specifics though are not included in the report.

China launches HD observation satellite
Xinhuanet of China (10/5): China’s high resolution Gaofen-10 high resolution Earth observation satellite was launched into orbit on Saturday atop a Long March-4C rocket.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of October 6-12, 2019 (10/6): As World Space Week continues, former Apollo astronaut Tom Stafford and Charlie Bolden, former NASA administrator and astronaut, are among those joining a National Academy of Engineering forum Monday on the future of human space flight. The annual International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight gathers Wednesday through Thursday in Las Cruces, New Meixco.  More space events are planned in Luxembourg, Canada and California. The long delayed air launch of NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer is planned from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Wednesday night. The second in a series of five NASA spacewalks for the exchange of solar power storage batteries outside the International Space Station (ISS) is planned for Friday. Congress remains in recess until October 15.

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